We all age; it’s unavoidable, but a multi-generational approach is the best way to face the inevitable aging process. The families that are generally ready to deal with the typical difficulties associated with caring for their seniors or settling their affairs when they pass are those families that have adequately prepared. This preparation affords seniors and their families to concentrate on appropriate medical care, living arrangements, and sustaining a loving and robust connection among the generations.
A significant aspect of this readiness involves executing key authoritative documents while your senior is still in a healthy mental and physical state. Postponing this undertaking until after your loved one is already in need of care due to physical or cognitive impairment can create complications for all those involved. Here are five legal documents that every senior should prepare to reduce stress and conflict within their family.
1. Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare
A durable power of attorney expressly for the senior’s healthcare will permit a trusted individual, other than the senior, the capacity to make crucial medical decisions on the senior’s behalf. In addition, this document will allow that appointed person to retrieve and share necessary healthcare information with required parties, including doctors and senior care providers.
2. Durable Power of Attorney for Finances
A durable power of attorney specifically for the senior's finances will grant a trusted person other than the senior the authority to manage the senior's money and assets, including paying bills, executing contractual agreements, handling real estate, accessing bank accounts, and other comparative monetary matters.
3. Revocable Living Trust
A revocable living trust situates chosen assets, such as investments and real estate, into a trust, authorizing the senior to manage the trust and decide how their resources will be dispersed. Typically, consigning assets to a trust ensures a straightforward transfer of those assets to beneficiaries upon the senior’s passing, circumventing probate and various inheritance taxations. Also, as the trust is revocable, the senior can change the document at any time.
4. Medical Directive
A medical directive is a document otherwise known as an advance healthcare directive or living will. This document will specify the senior’s ultimate medical instructions if the senior becomes too debilitated or ill to make their desires known at a given time.
An appropriately composed will accounts for all the senior’s assets, including those resources controlled through a trust) and explicitly details who will take possession of those assets upon the senior’s passing. This document can be an important way to mitigate disputes among family members over the senior’s money and property.
What Happens Without These Documents?
Suppose a senior is declared mentally inept at making decisions on their behalf, and there is no power of attorney established. In that case, a guardianship or conservatorship for the senior must be enacted by a court. This process can be a costly and time-consuming ordeal. Likewise, in the absence of a will or trust, upon the senior’s passing, the assets would undergo probate to settle the senior’s financial responsibilities and transfer all remaining money and property to the court-ordered beneficiaries. Probate procedures can take a significant amount of time and result in considerable yet preventable costs to the family.
Preparing These Legal Documents
The documents discussed above can be obtained online from a legal document resource and printed out at your home very inexpensively. However, when substantial assets are involved, many families find it helpful to work with an experienced attorney specializing in elder law. In the greater Northern Virginia area, preparing all these legal documents by a specialized lawyer will generally cost between $3,000 - and $8,000, but it can be even higher in some cases.
For more information or no-cost assistance with independent living, assisted living, memory care, or other senior living options in Northern Virginia’s Prince William County, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Arlington County, or Alexandria, please call our local elder care experts today at (703) 878-7870 or contact us via e-mail.